Winterline, a rare phenomenon that makes Mussoorie the perfect winter destination
The winterline is one of Mussoorie’s biggest attractions in winter, making itself visible from Diwali up to Holi. Here’s all you need to know about this rare phenomenon.
‘How glorious a greeting the sun gives to the mountains’...
These words by Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and botanist John Muir aptly describe the magic of the mountains, particularly in the winter. The sight of glistening snow-capped peaks bathing in the rays of the sun lends a touch of romance, transporting you to an otherworldly space.
And in Mussoorie, one can witness a special natural phenomenon called winterline every winter.
There are only two destinations in the world–the Swiss Alps and Mussoorie in the northern state of Uttarakhand–that have the good fortune of welcoming the winterline. This stupendous sight is best witnessed from mid-October until March.
Some intermittent sightings have also happened in Mizoram and Himachal Pradesh, but not much information is available.
As the name suggests, winterline refers to the dark false horizon that is formed in certain mountainous regions at the time of sunset. As someone who saw the winterline up, close, and personal, I have no other words to describe it other than a “near-perfect painting.”
How it happens?
Imagine the sky being splashed with colours like yellow, orange, grey, and mauve. A distinct line appears as you watch the sun gradually disappear behind a false horizon. This ethereal sight is caused by the refraction of sunlight at a certain angle, which can only be seen from mountains having a long valley extending from the east to the west.
Research suggests that winterline is a consequence of the warm air that rises up and mingles with dust particles, which then comes in contact with cold air to form this phenomenon.
“The good old timers would typically say that it starts on Diwali every year and ends at Holi. It can be seen in all its glory from December-February,” says Sandeep Sahni, President of Hotels and Restaurant Association of Uttarakhand.
When and where to see it?
Whatever may be the cause, the beauty of this meteorological wonder is such that people from across the country make a trip to Mussoorie every year to catch this sight.
“I have travelled all the way from Kolkata to catch the winterline for the first time. We wanted my six-year-old son to witness this sight. All I can say is it was spectacular, far more beautiful than what I had seen on social media,” Akash Dubey, a 42-year-old businessman from Kolkata, tells YS Life.
New Delhi-based Anusha Patnaik, a former journalist, travelled to Mussoorie for the third time this year to witness the scenic wonder. “It may sound unreal, but ever since I first saw the phenomenon in 2019, I have got new people with me every time because I want everyone to experience what I did. It’s a sight that can just be soaked in; you can’t describe it in words,” Patnaik reveals.
“It’s fascinating that photographers come here and take images daily to see any changes that appear in the winterline,” reveals Sahni.
For the best view of the winterline in Mussoorie, head to Lal Tibba, the highest point in the hill town at 2,275 metres, where tourists make a beeline to catch the panoramic views of the valley on one side and the Himalayas on the other. You could also head to the George Everest peak and Mall Road to see the winterline in all its glory.
Beyond the sights
Last December, Mussoorie hosted a week-long Winterline Carnival to draw more visitors to experience this rare phenomenon. First launched in 2013, the carnival was stopped when Covid-19 struck, before resuming in 2022.
Not only did it offer several opportunities to catch the spectacle but there were also other activities planned including nature trails–folk performances, and adventure activities like paragliding, bungee jumping, and skating.
There were also stalls set up to showcase local handicrafts and handloom, apart from regional food.
“This event single-handedly boosted tourism not just in Mussoorie, but also other parts of Uttarakhand,” concludes Sahni.
There are no plans for the festival this year.
Edited by Megha Reddy